The Househunter Room by Room

It’s been a busy week this week so only two houses for you to look around today. On Monday I went to Nottingham with Sophie Robinson (judge on The Great Interior Design Challenge and one of my guest bloggers) for a project we are doing with Hillary’s Blinds later in the year. We were chatting so much we got on the wrong train and the entire project was nearly a non- starter. All I am allowed to say is if you were thinking of redoing your blinds this year then hold fire for a few months as there are some exciting ideas coming down the line.

kitchen corner

Then I flew to Milan with Smeg for 24 hours to interview their CEO Vittorio Bertazzoni, the grandson of the founder of the company). He hardly ever gives interviews so it was great to be able to speak to him before the new flagship London store – Smeg products over three floors  – opens in September and as he launched a new collection of small appliances designed by Dolce e Gabbana and all handpainted in Sicily. Check my instagram for a couple of pictures and to see me making pasta like a pro. Not quite at all.

red sofa warehouse apartment

Anyway, enough of that. Houses. This is a warehouse apartment in Hackney, east London which is on the market via The Modern House for £1,200,000. It’s a three bedrooom open plan space with huge windows, underfloor heating and recessed balconies. And you know what else? Oh apart from the built-in wardrobes and en suite bathroom? Well there’s a communal roof terrace and a pool up there as well. Yes it’s outdoor and yes it’s heated. Do you even need to read on? I mean £1.2 mill of fantasy lottery money’s a steal isn’t it?

balcony with plants

Anyway, there are a couple of points I wanted to make about this place. Firstly I’m guessing you’ll all hate the ceilings. That’s fine you can paint them. But it’s not that – it’s the red sofa. A bold choice but it looks brilliant. I was reading a fashion blogger once who said she bought a red handbag because red is basically a brilliant neutral and goes with almost every outfit you own bringing a splash of colour to monochrome and adding more colour if you are that way inclined already. I wasn’t sure and then I told my book agent this and she immediately went out and bought a red bag and loves it. So it must be true.

The same is true of a red sofa. If your walls and floors are all fairly neutral then instead of buying a sensible grey sofa (I know guilty as charged but I do also have a pink chaise longue so I’m not all that sensible) and adding colour with cushions, why not make the sofa do the singing and calm it down with gorgeous patterned monochrome cushions?

home office

Moving through to the second bedroom which is currently used as a study. It’s a great little space although it needs more plants. Especially when you look at the balcony of the bedroom below. It would be like waking up in Bali every morning. Until you remembered it was actually Hackney. Or should that be Hackni? Still if you have a budget then add plants into it. I now wish I had a balcony to put the plants on.

room with a view

Where shall we go next? As there are two this week, let’s do town and country. We’re off to Withington, near Cheltenham, in Gloucestershire, to this typically chocolate boxy cottage which is on the market for £660,000 via Savills. Wait till you see inside though because it’s not the usual beige and red shabby chic affair. It’s much more modern than that.

chocolate box cottage via savills

See it’s so typically British and cottagey isn’t it? But come inside. The owners have lightened up what can often be a small dark space with low ceilings by keeping everything pale and using lots of texture.

modern rustic kitchen via savills

In the dining room they have painted over the beams which is apparently how they would have looked originally. Don’t quote me on that, but I have read that it was a later affectation to leave them in dark wood as a feature. It definitely helps raise the ceiling in this room though.

Do you want to talk about the exposed brick? I have mixed feelings. I keep thinking it’s a fad that’s going to move on and it keeps not moving on. I think I can live with the bricks but I’m not sure about the fancy effect which is trying to look as if the plaster fell off the wall and they just decided to go with it. It’s trying a little too hard.

white dining room via savills

The beams are dark in here but that works too as they bring definition and anyway sitting rooms are meant to be cosy. Although we need to talk about the giant pepper pots either side of the fire. Or perhaps not? Having looked at them again I’m not sure what we’d say. I do love the soft greys and layering of throws and rugs to make it more cosy and interesting. It manages to be both cosy and cottagey and modern at the same time which is a feat not often pulled off. Or even tried, I might add.

inglenook fireplace via savills

Then a burst of colour in this room with this green dresser which works perfectly in here. There are a lot of lights though. I might be tempted to remove the ceiling fitting. When the ceilings are low it’s best not to draw attention to that and stick to table and floor lights which give better ambient light anyway.
green dresser via savills

Finally, a restful white bedroom. More textures, subtle colours and quite the opposite of what you would expect to see in a country cottage. And let’s not forget it’s almost half the price of the one above and also has three bedrooms. So, cue drum roll (if I had a little more time I would actually try and work out how to link to a drum roll sound effect) which is it to be this week? Town. Or. Country?
white bedroom with en suite via savills

Kate Watson-Smyth

The author Kate Watson-Smyth

I’m a journalist who writes about interiors mainly for The Financial Times but I have also written regularly for The Independent and The Daily Mail. My house has been in Living Etc, HeartHome and featured in The Wall Street Journal & Corriere della Sera. I also run an interior styling consultancy Mad About Your House. Welcome to my Mad House.


  1. Can’t wait to hear about the blinds – we get asked often about providing them but currently don’t offer. We work with a number of digital fabric printers if you ever need any info tho.
    That’s a real burst of colour on the dresser – wow! It’ll open the eyes every time that door opens!

  2. Oh blinds! I trawled your site on Wednesday to know what you recommend. I found so little. In fact almost every windows is sans decoration. Which looks lovely but obviously not practical in a bedroom. Same I can’t wait till the end of the year, as the windows are bare.

  3. Hmm … like the light and vegetation in Hackney but it’s in Hackney and the views are … well … industrial. But a bit of Cotswolds stone? Now we’re talking mellow. And yet it’s so schizophrenic inside. Completely agree with you re the joy of white beams. I once did that in a kitchen of a 17-century cottage and it trebled in height, or so it seemed. Giant pepper pots or maybe matching urns for elephants’ ashes. Who knows? They are rather peculiar. As is is the Graham-and-Green on acid in the ‘green dresser room’. Too much, too much. Not just the lighting but just generally (and how much more effective is the dresser in the other room with its chicken wire front). But don’t you think, as you moved from room to room, you’d be hit by geographical culture shock? And that plaster effect is just TOO gimmicky. What intrigues me is that you get no sense of who might live here – the personality comes from the pages of magazines etc – it’s very ‘designed’ in a deliberately ‘undesigned’ way.

  4. Personally I LOVE the ceilings in the Hackney flat and can’t imagine why anyone would want to paint them!

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